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First Prize, Poem, High School

Tamara Sato

Punahou School, Honolulu

Junior (2016-17 Academic School Year)

Seventy six years ago we were almost defeated

Held captive in our country and severely maltreated

Thrown into horse stalls and makeshift homes

Places that no human should have to go.

Seventy six years ago we were incarcerated

Forced to pack our belongings and be relocated

Our homes, our jobs, and our lives created

Taken by those who Japanese-hated.

Seventy six years ago a decision was made

Executive Order 9066 with discrimination conveyed

America’s feelings that we were disloyal

Arrested and put into camps without even a trial.

Seventy six years ago 120,000 men, women, and children

Out of “military necessity” were deemed to be villains

Behind barbed wire were forced to remain

For up to four years, unjustly contained.

Seventy six years ago something else happened

Something still hard for me to imagine

The 442 and the One Puka Puka

Decided to fight, decided to take action.

With duty and honor and responsibility in mind

They fought for their country, for equality of mankind

Although they were sometimes shorter and lighter

History remembers them as some of the greatest fighters.

With the motto “Remember Pearl Harbor” they charged into battle

With teamwork, in unison, they were able to handle.

It wasn’t easy and many, many lives were lost

But each of them fought, no matter the cost.

Sometimes these great sacrifices are too easily overlooked

In lectures and presentations and boring history books.

But it’s not about statistics or data or facts

It’s about the belief, the courage, the brave individual acts.

Somehow combining into larger than one

Look what these people, these soldiers, these citizens have done

It’s about courage, about bravery, about audacity and spirit

The fact that one’s loyalty doesn’t depend on appearance.

Seventy six years ago our country was in turmoil

And the freedom of American peoples was close to being foiled.

Sadly nowadays, still, freedom is not entirely reached

There is still racism and violence, equality is still incomplete.

Yet the Japanese Americans during World War II

Proved to her, to him, and to you

That race shouldn’t determine one’s loyalty

That the way one looks is not their entirety.

I am a Japanese American and proud to be so

I am proud of my heritage and I hope that it shows.

To me, the purple hearts, the ribbons, and the veterans

Show us that we should treat each other with love and with reverence.

Seventy six years ago a good fight was fought

And I can only hope that it wasn’t for naught

To me, the actions will never be forgotten

A legacy made, a promise still wanted.


My name is Tamara Sato and I am a half-Japanese half-Chinese American. Growing up in Hawaii, I have gotten the opportunity to learn about the attack on Pearl Harbor and the presence of Japanese Americans during World War II. Even though I am a fourth-generation Japanese American, listening to my grandparents’ stories about the internment and mistreatment of Japanese Americans during that time still brings a personal sadness to my heart. I want to extend a sincere thank you to all of the Japanese Americans who, through valiant and heroic acts, allowed me to be proud of who I am.

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